Southern Section officials did little to promote attendance in the first round of the football playoffs when they paired two teams from Orange County's powerful South Coast League against Ventura and Buena, the Channel League's top-seeded teams.
On Friday, Capistrano Valley High (8-2), the South Coast's No. 3 entrant, will travel to Ventura and meet the Cougars (7-2-1), the Channel League champion, at Larrabee Stadium. On Saturday, El Toro (9-1), the South Coast's No. 2 representative, will travel to Ventura for a game against Buena (5-5), the Channel League runner-up, at Larrabee Stadium.
Both Buena Coach Rick Scott and Ventura Coach Harvey Kochel questioned the Southern Section decision to send the Orange County schools more than 120 miles north to Ventura.
"I'm not complaining, but it would seem to make more sense to put (Channel League teams) against the Marmonte teams," Scott said. "There would be a helluva lot more people there because those are all Ventura County teams. Shoot, how many Capistrano Valley fans are going to make it from Orange County on a Friday afternoon?"
Neither Scott nor Kochel is bothered by the challenge of playing teams from the South Coast League, which many observers consider the best league in Division II.
"You have to play them anyway if you're going to win it," Kochel said.
Scott said he hopes El Toro becomes distracted by its long drive and Buena's 5-5 record. Buena, which began the season 0-3, has won four of its past five games.
"I hope they think they're going for a cruise along the ocean to play a 5-5 team," Scott said. "Hopefully, by the time they're off the bus, they'll have bus sores and rigor mortis will have set in. If they're lucky, they'll be home in time for school the following Monday."
Kochel is concerned with the contrasting style of play by teams in each league. Channel League teams traditionally employ strong running games. Ventura uses a veer attack and has rushed for 2,914 yards. South Coast teams primarily are pass-oriented.
"It's interesting because both leagues are so different," Kochel said. "(Capistrano Valley) hasn't faced a veer offense all year, so we're just guessing as to how they'll line up."
Neither coach feels overwhelmed by the talent of the South Coast League, which moved up from Division III this season.
"On film, Westlake's offense looks better than El Toro's, and Thousand Oaks' defense looks better," said Scott, whose team lost to Westlake and Thousand Oaks.
"El Toro is not awesome. We've faced Ventura, Westlake and Thousand Oaks, and (El Toro) doesn't scare me as much as those other three."
Add Buena: Freshman running back George Keiaho, who missed Buena's 19-10 win over Santa Barbara last Friday because of a knee injury, likely will play Saturday.
Keiaho, who needs 12 yards to become the first Southern Section freshman to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, is awaiting medical clearance.
"But he was running around practice (Monday) and looked real good," Scott said. "He'll probably be back."
It was earlier reported that Keiaho needed 28 yards to reach 1,000, but Scott said that his coaching staff reviewed each of Keiaho's eight games and found Keiaho has gained 988 yards instead of 972.
Quick turnaround: Two weeks ago, Westlake was one minute away from its first Marmonte League title since 1982. Today, the Warriors are the league's No. 3 representative and are preparing to face Muir (7-3) at Pasadena City College on Friday. Muir, last year's Division II co-champion with Santa Barbara, has lost to Fontana, Bishop Amat and Glendale--teams with a combined record of 28-2.
Westlake's agenda is the result of 49 minutes of football in which the Warriors looked anything but the team that began the season 8-0.
First, Westlake (8-1-1) blew a 41-33 lead against Thousand Oaks in the final minute and finished in a 41-41 tie. Then came 48 minutes of disaster that resulted in a 37-0 loss to Royal, leaving the first-place Warriors in third place.
"We knew our scenario and what we had to do, and we didn't get it done," Coach Jim Benkert said. "It's tough, but we'll just have to regroup."
Long live the king: Quartz Hill's Golden League title represented, among other things, the first time in nine years that Canyon has not won at least a share of the title.
It was the first outright title in the 26-year history of the Lancaster school and came in Canyon Coach Harry Welch's final season.
Quartz Hill Coach John Albee did not go without recognition from his peers at the league's coaches meeting Saturday. He was presented, by a rival coach, with a crown--of sorts.
The crown? A Canyon football cap. The giver? You guessed it.
Safe to say, then, that the Cowboys--and Welch--still have their hat in the ring.
Liming returns: Royal's Tony Liming, a multipurpose player who was injured in the Highlanders' 37-0 win over Westlake on Friday, will return to practice today.